How to buy a hot air station for laptop & cellphone repair.

How do you make a choice? Why do hot air stations range from $50 to $1800 and what makes them different? How do I pick the right one for me? I’ve bought the wrong equipment and I use these tools every day in a professional environment. I will walk you through EVERYTHING I wish I knew when I first pulled out my credit card to buy a station.

Atten 858D

This station is only $57, but good luck getting anything off a multilayer PCB with it!

JBC JTSE

This hot air station is perfect & makes repair a breeze, but is $1500, which leaves you bankrupt.

Price and experience. Do newbies need good stations?

You can buy an Atten 858D for $58 or a JBC JTSE for $1500+. The cheap station doesn’t do the job, the expensive station makes you too broke to pay the electric bill. Neither make sense for someone NEW to our business. A JBC has nice features, but do you really need a station that can save graphs of your activity?

Don’t mistake my statement as an argument for a $50 piece of crap! People often message me saying they do not need something great because they are just starting out. This is bad thinking! When you are just starting out, you need equipment that is “known good.” When you are new, you have no way to tell if bad results are due to your technique or your equipment. You will blame yourself for what is actually an equipment issue and never improve. Even worse is if your station is fit for a single layer PCB, has a bunch of good reviews, then you try it on a multilayer PCB and it fails. “It has such good reviews, it must be MY fault!!” is something I commonly hear.

Even worse is when you actually find the cause of the problem on a board, but then kill its CPU or something else with cheap hot air. You figured out the problem – great, but you never get to see if you were right because you killed your board roasting it to death with a $55 hot air station. This ruins confidence and desire to learn. With hot air you want to get in, and out, as quickly as possible in a precision manner.

When you are just starting out, you need equipment that is “known good.” When you are new, you have no way to tell if bad results are a result of your technique or your equipment.

Power

By far, the single most important attribute for any type of serious professional rework is the power of the station. If you point the nozzle at the board and the component you are heating does not come off, you’re not going to bill anything. Cheap stations, fringe stations, and also ALL IN ONE stations are often low energy.

This Hakko 851 has less than 6 liters/minute airflow. This means its blowing is weaker than a 59 year old whore. At $650 & incapable of removing a touch IC, it’s as expensive as it is useless.

Weller WR3M

Weller’s WR3M seems like the ultimate all-in-one tool until you realize that even at its high price it only hits 15 liters/minute of airflow.

Unfortunately, this is difficult if not impossible to properly judge over the internet via spec sheets. Many companies make wattage/temperature/airflow claims that never stand up to real world usage, especially cheaper stations. Some do not publish them at all!

When it comes to temperature, spec sheets are useless. They lie more often than receiver/amplifier manufacturers lie about the rated wattage output for their electronics. Even if it can hit a high temperature, can it maintain that temperature? Does it fluctuate in the middle of a soldering job? Many cheap stations make claims of 600-1000 watts of power or of temperatures up to 500c, but are unable to maintain them. Even worse, many cheap stations display temperatures on their display that they aren’t reaching.

Hakko FM-206

The FM-206 allows desoldering, hot tweezers, and soldering all from one station, but its included hot air doesn’t go over 6L/minute.

When it comes to airflow, you want something that can do at least 20 liters/minute. Larger chips will be difficult to do without going to 30-40L/minute, but at the very least 20L/minute is desired. Airflow is how powerful the pump/fan that propels the air forward is. Even the hottest hot air station will be useless if it cannot propel that hot air forward onto the board/chip you wish to heat and move it into place. Keep in mind most all-in-one stations that try to combine hot air & soldering into one device, while convenient & savers of desk space, have terrible airflow.

Stations that get put in the hall of shame are below for not having enough power to get the job done.

 

 

 

Interface

Hot air differs from standard soldering in that you will often want to adjust airflow and temperature. While a soldering iron can remain at 750f or 840f for the entire duration of a board repair, a hot air station’s airflow or heat you’ll want to adjust based on what you’re soldering. airflow may be desired. If we are soldering a larger IC that is far away from anything vulnerable to heat, high airflow is fine. If we are working on something right next to a CPU, lower airflow may be desired. The ability to adjust these attributes quickly is important. If adjusting temperature or airflow is difficult, the technician will be incentivized to “work around” using the “wrong” setting to save time and this helps no one.

Some stations have analog interfaces you can adjust with knobs, which is ideal. Others have push buttons for changing temperature. And the worst of them all, like the Hakko FR-810 have these 1980s VCR like interfaces where changing temperature or airflow is just a total nightmare. Interestingly enough, the stations with the worst interfaces such as the Hakko are often the most expensive.

Bad interface

The Hakko FR-810 is a clear example of the worst interface on a hot air station I’ve ever seen.

Good interface

The Quick is not the best interface – knobs are preferable, but still far more acceptable than Hakko’s junk.

Angled bent hot air nozzle

This bent nozzle makes workng under a microscope at an angle easier.

Nozzles

Bent nozzles are great for working with a microscope. When working under a microscope, you can’t point the hot air directly at the board from above. It must be placed from an angle. This gives you less direct heat on the board. However, if you have a bent nozzle available, then you can have the benefit of direct heat on your component while under the microscope. As you angle the hot air to fit it under the microscope, the angle of the nozzle allows the nozzle to shoort air directly down on the board. We will be offering bent nozzles for the Quick 861DW shortly!

We must also consider the size of the nozzle. Using a 2mm nozzle to remove an SMC will never work, and using a 10mm to remove a tiny part on a cellphone is overkill. It’s best to buy a station that has a good number of nozzles between 3 and 7mm available.

Straight nozzle

This straight nozzle makes working under a microscope at an angle more difficult.

Our pick

Our current pick for hot air station is the Quick 861DW. Why?

  • Easy to use interface: air & temperature adjustable in single button pushes.
  • Recallable presets for common air/temperature settings.
  • More powerful than anything we have tried to date.
  • Incredibly affordable at under $300.
  • Bent nozzles available.

Buy a Quick below!

 

Quick 861DW

Louis Rossmann’s preferred hot air station.

Tired of coming here? Buy a more durable machine!

We’re often asked, as a store called Mac Laptop Repair Specialist, why do we have Lenovo laptops in the window? Why do we have Lenovo computers as shipping stations, cash registers? Why does the owner have a Thinkpad T520 as a personal laptop?

I’ve always been a function over form kind of guy. I want something that works well and lasts long. Looks are secondary to durability to me, which is why I own a Thinkpad. I need something that isn’t going to die from overheating or from an accidental spill or drop. It has to keep going – so I can keep going.

Lenovo laptops are quite durable, and fit my function over form preferences.

  1. Water resistant. Spill liquid on an Apple laptop and it’s dead. Spill water on a Lenovo and it falls through the spillproof keyboard, around black tape protecting the motherboard, and comes out a spill hole on the bottom – causing minimal to no damage.
  2. You drop it and the plastic cracks subtly in the area of the drop, instead of falling apart into pieces.
  3. The power jack is not directly soldered onto the motherboard.
  4. The connection between the back cover and the hinges is damn near bulletproof compared to the cheap crap on many conventional laptop back covers.

Below you’ll find my personal Thinkpad T520 that has been dropped off a ladder, not once, but twice. Like bulletproof glass, its plastic has sustained minor cosmetic flaws that haven’t affected the structural integrity of the laptop.

This thinkpad was dropped from a ladder twice. Here is the result of the first drop.

This thinkpad was dropped from a ladder twice. Here is the result of the first drop.

 

 

This is from the second drop this Thinkpad T520 took off of a ladder.

This is from the second drop this Thinkpad T520 took off of a ladder.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lenovo laptops aren’t the sexiest, and they aren’t the cheapest, but they’re made to last. People always ask me what they should get so they don’t wind up back here, and then they ask if I sell them. It seems silly to consistently recommend people purchase something that we don’t sell, so we decided to start selling Lenovos.

Lenovos are highly durable, and they didn’t get there overnight. Lenovo purchased IBM’s laptop & desktop computer division almost ten years ago, and carried on IBM’s torch of developing highly durable machines for mission-critical businesspeople.

So, before you go to Best Buy to purchase a disposable piece of crap because it has a gig more RAM or a flashier case, ask yourself what you value more. 200 extra MHz on the processor, or a trip to us when the machine dies?

We sell machines from $475 to $900, so there is a decent range from mid to high end, ultraportable to standard sized. Come in to learn more!

Macbook Pro falls asleep, GPU issue, to bake motherboard or no?

Kris asked me on youtube about baking a motherboard to make it work again. I get this question a lot, so I decided to share with the rest of the class.

I was wondering if you could offer me some words of advice.

I own a – somewhat old by now – macbook pro 2007. I installed mavericks on it, which seems to be working fine. Seems. There is one issue when the computer falls asleep. It tends not to wake up. In the sense that its doing ok, but the screen does not wake up and the sleep-light keeps blinking. Nothing you can do to wake it up anymore.

No shaking, throwing, resetting whatever memory, reconnecting whichever whatever… the only thing that DOES work is the… yes… logic board bake trick.

And this is where I am confused. And this is what I would like to ask you about.

Maybe taking out the logic board and putting it into the oven for 195 degrees 9 minutes, is a slight overkill… Maybe there is something silly going on here that I did not think about doing…

so…

question 1. what is it that actually happens during the ‘bake’ that makes the logic board suddenly wake up from its beauty sleep?

question 2. is there an alternative way of achieving the same goal?

I mean… there is only so many times I can do the bakes, I did this 3 times already and I fear that the logic board will just get damaged one of these days…

Anyway, any tip or information will help.

Thanks

Kris

Hi Kris,

Firstly, the newer Oses can put some additional load on the older machines. Silly graphical effects here and there on Mavericks. It’s not a lot, but if you have a GPU temp sensor on there, you’ll see between Leopard & newer Oses, the GPU runs a little hotter when you have the eye candy turned on.

Secondly, 99% of the time, in your case, it is the GPU issue. I am guessing your machine has an 820-2101 or 820-2249 motherboard. The G84-602-A2 is a piece of shit and is the GPU on most of those boards. The G84-603-A2 is a lot better. A lot of the times, you can just solder the old one back to the board, and you are fine, but that is not the case all the time.

When you bake the board, you are reheating cracked solder joints and causing them to come back into place. Since you are baking the entire board and not one chip, I can’t tell you exactly which component for certain is responsible – but I can give you two theories as to why it keeps fucking up.

a) The chip is actually bad, and it is just coincidence that it works after baking.

b) Solder needs flux to flow freely. The flux burns away each time you heat it. If you keep heating it, it becomes caked shit, and doesn’t flow freely.

Dropping something like Kester 951 under the chip and then try baking, or reflowing the chip. It will help the solder balls set into place properly

You might just be fucked at this point since you’ve baked it three times, even if you baked it at appropriate temperatures. The board can actually flex from heat related damage over time, which makes it more difficult for the solder balls to flow into place. Once the board is warped, you’re kinda screwed, 90% of the time.

c) You are not heating at a high enough temperature. For lead free solder, 195c is near the top of the curve, but not the top of the curve, to properly get that fucker back on the board. You need more heat.
Again, I’m tossing a lot of guesses out there because I don’t have this in front of me, and I have limited information, but hopefully this helps you get some direction & perspective.

Thank you for your question!

Glass? LCD? What do you mean, it’s all just a screen to me…

You’ll often hear us ask you which is broken – the glass, the LCD, or both. For iPad, iPhones, Macbooks.. let me explain how this works.

On the iPad and iPhone.

The iPad has a glass touchscreen that you touch. This is the part that is exposed, and most often breaks.

The iPad has an LCD screen that makes the picture. This is a separate part in some cases.

On the Macbook Pro.

A1278, A1286, and A1297 Unibody Macbook Pros, if purchased with a glossy display, have a glass and an LCD as well.

Unlike on the iPhone or iPad, the glass serves no purpose. It is not part of a touchscreen, it is just… there. Why? You got me – I think the A1342 White Unibody Macbook screen looks MUCH Better as a result of not having the glass over it. Ask Apple on that one.

So, what’s broken?

If you can see the picture clearly – nothing is missing, distorted, or bleeding, the LCD is fine. If the picture has lines running through it, or is bleeding, or missing sections, the LCD is bad.

If you can see the picture just fine but it looks like you are looking at a TV screen through a cracked house window, the LCD is fine, but the glass is broken.

I’m still confused.

If you have any questions as to which is bad, feel free to ask us, send us pictures, or come to the store. Some items have different prices depending on whether the glass or LCD are broken – such as the Unibody Macbook Pros from 2008-2012, the iPad 2, 3, 4 ,and mini. Some like the iPhone 5, cost the same regardless of which are broken.

We’ll always be happy to help.

The Nexus 7 – or another reason I love to bash Apple products.

I fucked up this Nexus 7 that I just bought. Dropped it into a sink full of water. No more power button. 🙁

I was dreading opening this. I don’t have a Hakko at home, any prytools.. but wait. This ISN’T some overpriced, nonsensically put together Apple piece of crap! There may be ANOTHER WAY.
I am so used to working on iJunk all day that it never occurred to me that they actually make these parts user accessible.

You mean I can pry off the back with my nails in 20 seconds? You mean I DON’T need specialized tools to remove glass that is glued to the power button & antenna? AND this shit costs less money than an iPad?

I got rid of some crap on the power flex and it was back to working in under one minute.

Yeah, can’t say I’m getting off the ASUS/Lenovo/Linux/Android bandwagon for a while. Three cheers to ASUS for making something user serviceable instead of a pile of glue and ripped flex cables.

Data recovery, corrupted OSX repair, if your Mac won’t boot.

sheepfixes-data

This article is for moderate to savvy users. It is not a precise, step by step guide.

My goal is to point people who have some computer know how in the right direction. I will not be going into detail with each particular step. If you are somewhat computer savvy, but just need somewhere to start, this is the guide for you.  This is mac-centric, however, ddrescue & HDD Regenerator are equally adept at recovering any operating system along with your data.

Help! It doesn’t work!

You go to turn on your computer one day and it won’t boot. Oftentimes, home users do not have the tools necessary to do their own data recoveries. If you do have any, I am going to walk you through the steps you can take to get your entire install back – a bootable drive with your full setup on it is my goal. Reinstalling software and reconfiguring every setting so you can work the way you used to can be an incredible pain in the ass, which we are hoping to avoid. They may require a mixture of Apple & Windows machines available.

First thing’s first. Understand that drives get worse – not better.

The most important thing to understand with data recovery is that dying drives can worsen in condition as you access the data. Using software like Data Rescue Pro or UFS Explorer to obtain specific files prior to attempting a full recovery, or before attempting to repair the volume is always prudent. I did mention that my goal is to get you a full recovery – but if you have one session file, one document, or one notepad file with winning lotto numbers in it – grab that before we move forward with full recovery!

On a Mac, here’s one of the easiest points to start from.

On a mac, the first step to boot up into single user mode. This means holding apple-S from the second you turn the computer on. You’ll be transported to a black, command prompt, DOS looking screen. Type the following at the prompt.

fsck -fy

A series of checks will undergo on the primary drive in the laptop/desktop. Any errors you see are not necessarily signs of a failing hard drive. However, if a drive is failing, you can almost guarantee errors when performing this check. Oftentimes after repairing these errors, the machine will boot again. Reboot when it is done, and see what happens.

Do we have bad sectors? It’s important to check. This can help you with Windows drives as well.

If it boots after fscking, great! However, this doesn’t mean you’re out of the water. Your filesystem could have become corrupted for a number of reasons, and we need to rule out the hard drive as one of them before we allow it to stay in service. One thing you should do is run a bad sector check on the drive. There is no software I can recommend better for this purpose than HDD Regenerator. HDD Regenerator looks for bad sectors, and can be asked to repair them as it finds them. Bad sectors occur over time on any hard drive. You have an arm moving around a platter 90+ times per seconds and grabbing data from microscopic sectors via magnetism. It is a miracle that this works – and not surprising that bad sectors arrive over time. When bad sectors begin to appear, this is a good time to replace the drive. Considering how cheap hard drives are, it is a good idea to replace it once it reaches this point. It may still work, but is it really worth another heart attack 1 month from now when you’re right back where you started?

If it doesn’t boot after fscking, than I would attempt running HDD Regenerator in full – with the option to repair bad sectors as it finds them, on this drive. HDD Regenerator does something similar to what SpinRite does, with the difference being HDD Regenerator actually works. The concept behind Spinrite is great – I respect it a great deal, but every drive I’ve given SpinRite for six years has ended the same way – 6 days in, 0-1 bad sectors repaired, no progress.

After running HDD Regenerator and repairing the bad sectors – does your machine boot into the OS upon completion? If it does, great – let’s skip to the ddrescue section of this guide, and get  your data copied onto a good drive while it still works.

Still not booting? Perhaps the directory structure is corrupt. This is for the Mac people.

If it doesn’t boot, you can try a program called Diskwarrior. If you can’t boot, diskwarrior won’t do you much good, as Diskwarrior is run from within OSX. There are ways to install OSX onto a flash drive – and install diskwarrior onto the flash drive. Or, you can install Diskwarrior onto another Mac and plug your drive into this machine. The first tab when you open Diskwarrior has everything you need to rebuild the directory. Diskwarrior is excellent at making drives reappear, that do not show up in the finder otherwise.

If this completes, check and see if you have a bootable OS. One way or the other, skip below to the ddrescue step, and give diskwarrior a shot at repairing the directory once we have all of this data on a working disk.

Introduction of ddrescue – let’s copy the data to a safer place. This can help you regardless of operating system.

Programs like ddrescue on linux are excellent tools for data recovery. ddrescue is a combination of a traditional linux tool called dd(used for creating exact copies of files, partitions,and full discs) and a plethora of smart data recovery techniques.ddrescue uses several metods to ask for data from a drive in order to receive it. ddrescue is an intelligent program, understanding that each time you mess with the disk, you are potentially making it worse. A sensible way to copy data is to copy only what is easy to copy – this prevents stressing the disk. Get as much as you can off. Then, in a second pass, grab the information that was unusable the first time around. If the drive dies during this second pass, at least all the recoverable data has been retrieved.

It is not optimal to run, say, Ubuntu linux off of a USB pendrive, but it is very doable. Once you install Ubuntu on the pen drive, open a terminal and type the following.

sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get install build-essential

wget http://gnu.mirrors.pair.com/gnu/ddrescue/ddrescue-1.16.tar.gz

tar xvf ddrescue-1.16.tar.gz

cd ddrescue-1.16

./configure

make

make install

Now, ddrescue is installed. You’ll have to figure out which drive is your original drive, and which is your recovery drive.

ddrescue -f -g -n /dev/sdb /dev/sdc /root/rescue.log

This command tells ddrescue to copy all data from /dev/sdb, which may be our dead drive, to /dev/sdc, which is our new drive. -f forces the data over whatever is on the new drive. -g tells ddrescue to keep track of what it did/did not copy in a logfile – the point of this will come apparent soon. -n tells ddrescue to not drive itself nuts trying to copy corrupted sections of the drive over.

Then, we will do this.

ddrescue -d -f -r3 /dev/sdb /dev/sdc /root/rescue.log

This tells ddrescue to copy data again – this time, only copying data it skipped the last time. The difference between -n and -r3 is that -n tells it to ignore corrupt data, whereas -r3 tells it to try to retrieve data from corrupted blocks three times before giving up.

Once this is done, see if you can boot into your system. If you can, great! If not, we still have our options.

Try Diskwarrior again – this time, on your new drive. This is for Macs.

Diskwarrior cannot write a new directory, or read information properly off of a very bad drive. However, if you put that same information on a new drive, Diskwarrior now has a fighting chance – a possibility to recover the data. Often directories too far gone on dead drives, are recoverable after using ddrescue to copy everything to a new drive.

If this works and allows you a bootable system, congrats. You don’t have to reinstall all your apps from scratch, or deal with a 2 month old time machine backup missing everything you’ve recently done. If not, it’s time to cave and attempt recovering data that is important, piece by piece – if you can get either drive to show up with software such as Data Rescue Pro or UFS Explorer.

Good luck!

If you do wind up failing, we offer simple data recovery, advanced data recovery, and physical data recovery.

Who misses inverter boards?

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=478462465550511&set=a.304914029572023.74409.304851226244970&type=1&relevant_count=1

 

Missing pads from liquid spills make QFNs miserable. Screw LP8543SQ , who misses inverter boards?! 🙁

Dell Screen Repair – why it’s a pain in the ass(but we’ll do it for you anyway)

Let’s take the Studio 1458 as an example. It comes with an LP140WH1(TL)(A1). Good luck getting a B140XW01 V.6 or CLAA140WB11A to work in there, even though they are electrically compatible. Having to copy the EDID code off the old panel so you don’t get eight beeps indicating panel failure on startup is really lame.